‘A Glass of Godly Form’: Shakespeare as the Voice of Established Power
‘A Glass of Godly Form’:
Shakespeare as the Voice of Established Power
special issue of Parole Rubate / Purloined Letters
edited by Giuliana Iannaccaro and Alessandra Petrina
In recent years, a large number of Shakespearean studies have investigated the use of Shakespeare’s works in order to question and debunk the way in which the political, religious and cultural establishment has supported its hegemonic agenda for centuries through the voice of the Bard. In the last forty years at least, Shakespeare’s plays have catalysed the creative efforts of artists in all fields: stage adaptations, transpositions, parodies, and translations, which have come under critical scrutiny since the 1980s, have often been made to speak the voice of the oppressed and marginalised to react against a dominant, Anglo-centric ideology. Scholars from all over the world have enthusiastically taken up the challenge and analysed this new and unexpected lease of life given to the writer.
Together with contemporary re-readings of Shakespeare’s plays as a way to speak forcefully – and, paradoxically, ‘authoritatively’ – against oppression, discrimination and racism, there are fewer (but no less significant)recent critical investigations that take up the challenge of exploring a more dated but persistent phenomenon: the use of Shakespeare’s status as a ‘classic’ within the English, and indeed worldwide, literary tradition in order to impose and enforce political and cultural domination. Shakespeare (as an icon of quintessentially English principles and values) has become, very early in the history of British imperialism, one of the basic cultural products of the colonial enterprise within and without the national borders. Before representing the voice of the oppressed, between the eighteenth and the twentieth century Shakespeare was celebrated as the ideal spokesman for those who wanted to extol the voice of the English Bard in order to enforce and justify a white, male, anglocentric / protestant / suprematist discourse. With the rise of Bardolatry in England and events such as David Garrick’s first Shakespeare Jubilee the establishment of Shakespeare as a national myth proved inexorable. That myth enhanced the rising popularity of the playwright and singled him out as the ideal mouthpiece for national and nationalistic sentiments.
The present volume proposes to investigate Shakespeare as an ideological prop of established power or conservative discourse. Given the general mandate of Parole rubate, we focus on words rather than on visual or non-verbal adaptations, and indeed invite explorations on textual and philological issues. The collection of essays edited by Regula Hohl Trillini, Casual Shakespeare (Routledge, 2018) is proposed as a possible model for this kind of investigation, as is (in a more specifically literary frame) Kate Rumbold’s Shakespeare and the Eighteenth-century Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2016). The European appropriation of Shakespeare has been studied, among others, by Ton Hoenselaars and Clara Calvo (The Shakespearean International Yearbook (European Shakespeares, Routledge, 2008) and more recently by Balz Engler (Constructing Shakespeare, Signathur, 2019).One recent work retracing the steps of the colonial appropriation of Shakespeare is Leah S. Marcus’ How Shakespeare Became Colonial (Routledge, 2017).
Quotations and misquotations from Shakespeare’s plays, often taken disastrously out of context, supported the image of the writer as the repository of a supposed national greatness that became, in turn, the greatness of the dominant classes. We welcome investigations both of Shakespeare in ‘his own words’, and of the Shakespeare of rewritings, parodies, adaptations – even of attributed words that do not belong to him, as well as of incoherent/inconsistent textual references to his plays and to his very lines. We also welcome contributions that explore the way in which the very icon of the poet was enough to legitimise both English and European educational syllabi, and the ‘exportation’ of British culture abroad. Considered a pillar of the national and colonial educational enterprise, the very name of Shakespeare was also evoked by the repositories of pedagogical programs, in order to lay claim to an acquired ‘universal’ knowledge and to dignify their own aesthetical, spiritual and especially moral advancement.
Please send an abstract (ca. 500 words) and a short bio (max 200 words) in Italian or in English by 31 July 2020, to the following email addresses: